Dishes that take heat and spice to elevated levels

Believe it or not, loving spicy foods is something that’s learned. Rather than inheriting the ability to consume these flavor some dishes from our parents, being able to take the heat results from being exposed to peppers — or more specifically, the compound capsaicin, which gives our tastebuds that spicy reaction. While some people may love to push the limits from time to time, eating well-balanced, spicy dishes can actually give you endorphins. In this gourmet feature, five local restaurants feature seven dishes that pack a punch but without the watery eyes, blowing of the nose, or blotting of sweaty foreheads.

At J Vietnamese Cafe, the dishes come packed with scrumptious flavors made from fresh ingredients, and their bánh mì is no different. The apex of traditional bánh mì, you can choose between juicy sliced grilled pork or tofu, both served on a crunchy French baguette and then topped with house made butter, cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro, pickled carrots, and radish.

Serving made-to-order Indian cuisine, Curry N’ Grill shares a bit of Punjab tradition with each decadent dish. Out of all the curry dishes that one can consume, tikka masala is one of the best dishes to try. Combining tandori chicken tenders with a rich, intensely satisfying, tangy curry and tomato sauce, this unique cultural dish can be served in a variety of heat levels from mild to extra spicy.

Located inside Capital Mall, Fuji Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi Bar brings the heat with three sushi rolls that look so good and taste so right. The macho roll features shrimp tempura and avocado topped with shredded crab, jalapeño, and a drop of Sriracha. The ichiban roll combines shrimp tempura, soft-shell crab, avocado, and cucumber. And lastly, the black dragon roll features crispy shrimp and crabmeat, topped with eel, avocado, scallion, and eel sauce.

Coming in hot! Pizza Underground loves to play with different toppings, but there’s one pizza that hits the spot. This pizza looks as fiery as the oven it’s cooked in, but it’s got a sweet side. What began as the restaurant’s first pizza special of the month, made with whole milk mozzarella, chicken, and Sriracha honey, quickly turned into a fan favorite and was added to the regular menu.

While most people may think of the traditional Celtic dishes served at Paddy Malone’s Irish Pub, the astro burger can really get your tastebuds zinging! Spotlighting a thick patty of beef as its first ingredient, Paddy Malone’s piles on a handful of jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, and tops it off with a spread of chipotle ranch sauce. Pile these ingredients high between two fluffy buns, and you’ve got yourself a mouthful of heat with every bite.